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Miami blue butterflies. Photo by Mark Yokoyama, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Endangered Species Day: Congratulations to the 2017 Recovery Champions for the Southeast Region

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service observes Endangered Species Day to recognize the national conservation efforts to protect our nation’s endangered species and their habitats.

Endangered Species Day was established to encourage “the people of the United States to become educated about, and aware of, threats to species, success stories in species recovery, and the opportunity to promote species conservation worldwide.” It has since been celebrated in more than a dozen other countries as well.

Three recovery champions pose for a photo with their awards.
(L to R) Scott Wilson (USGS), Mike Oetker (FWS), Cathy Beck (USGS), Jim Reid (USGS), Howard Kochman (USGS), Jim Valade(FWS). Photo by Lourdes Mena, USFWS.

Every year on this day, the Service recognizes and honors Recovery Champions: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff and their partners whose work is advancing the recovery of endangered and threatened species of plants and animals in the United States.

Here are the National Recovery Champions for the Southeast Region whose work in 2017 is being recognized.

Mark Salvato, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Over the past 20 years, Mark Salvato has been instrumental in gathering and analyzing the data necessary to help achieve federal protections for various species and, in the case of the Miami blue and Schaus’ swallowtail, lift them back from the brink of extinction. Salvato’s work helped improve our understanding of species abundance, population dynamics, and viability. He was also instrumental in issuing an emergency order allowing the collection and captive rearing of endangered Schaus’ swallowtail butterflies after a mere four individuals were found range-wide in 2012.

A dark butterfly with light yellow streaks.
Schaus’ swallowtail found posing hours after being released at Elliott Key. Photo by Mary Truglio, FWC.

Thanks in part to that extraordinary action, captive-bred adults and caterpillars have been released into the wild, giving new hope for the species’ future. His credibility in the Service and the scientific community has been instrumental in maintaining relationships, forming new partnerships, obtaining research funding, and influencing conservation and recovery not just for the listed butterflies, but also for an additional 15 listed plants, an at-risk butterfly and an at-risk bee species.

Dr. Patrick E. O’Neil, Geological Survey of Alabama

In his distinguished career at the Geological Survey of Alabama, Dr. Patrick E. O’Neil has been an integral part of the development of conservation coalitions, listing and down/delisting decisions, and served as a technical repository for at least 80 listed species, including the historic downlisting of the Tulotoma snail. O’Neil has also helped improve passage for the goldline darter, Cahaba shiner, and slackwater darter, and provided critical telemetry research that has become the foundation for working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to implement dam locks for migratory species like the Gulf sturgeon and American eel in the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers. O’Neil has successfully built strong conservation partnerships in Alabama and has spent his career bringing stakeholders together and educating them on the importance of clean water, the role of healthy aquatic ecosystems, and how these can work in partnership with economic development.

Hundreds of partially submerged snails.
Tulotoma snails. Photo by USFWS.

Here are the Regional Recovery Champions for the Southeast Region whose work in 2017 is being recognized.

Jonathan Chandler, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Chandler is a Recovery Champion for his leadership in research and recovery of the frosted flatwoods salamander on St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. He has worked with our partners to develop protocols for improving the habitat on the refuge and for monitoring the species on the refuge, and has been instrumental in increasing knowledge of the life history of this species.

An orange and brown salamander on a log with large tufts behind its eyes.
Frosted flatwoods salamander at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by US Geological Service.

Since he has been concentrating on this species, the Service has moved from finding only eight occupied ponds in 2015 to 32 occupied ponds in 2017. He is an effective leader of a team of biological technicians and interns. He has directed their activities in trapping adults and tagging them for migration and survival studies, inventorying available habitat for presence, and collecting larvae for head-starting in tanks on the refuge. His team had an impressive 98 percent larvae survival rate in 2016 and an 80 percent survival rate in 2017 and reared over 400 larvae to metamorphosis in 2017.

Lisa Kruse, Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Kruse is recognized for her leadership in recovery of the endangered Canby’s dropwort. She has worked diligently to ensure that Georgia’s Canby’s dropwort populations get formal protection. In addition, she has worked hard to manage Canby’s dropwort populations, thereby increasing the stability and resiliency of populations.

Her dedication and passion to recover Canby’s dropwort has resulted in significant conservation gains and she continues to bring us closer to our recovery goal of 19 protected populations. Under her leadership, approximately 885 acres of Pond Cypress Savanna habitat and adjacent uplands have been protected to support the recovery of Canby’s dropwort. In addition, she has done an outstanding job managing Canby’s dropwort habitat by receiving external funds for prescribed fire and woody vegetation removal. Finally, she has collaborated with researchers at the University of Georgia to analyze the genetic diversity of Canby’s dropwort and is working on completing a peer-reviewed publication that will help refine recovery tasks and priorities.

Sirenia Project

Bob Bonde, Cathy Beck, Howard Kochman and Jim Reid, U.S. Geological Survey

The Sirenia Project at Florida’s Wetland and Aquatic Research Center was created in the 1970s to understand the biology and ecology of the then endangered West Indian manatee, and to aid managers in the development of actions that could best help the population. The four honorees have dedicated their careers to the study of manatee biology, the status of manatees, and the protection of manatee habitat. They have developed methods, conducted research, and provided the Service with the sound science needed to recover this species, including much of the information needed to support last year’s reclassification of the West Indian manatee to threatened. These partnerships with the Service and state of Florida were integral to downlisting the manatee.

A manatee covered in algae swims above a school of fish
A West Indian manatee “strikes a pose” with its aquatic neighbors at Three Sisters Springs in Citrus County, FL: part of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: Keith Ramos, USFWS.

Perdido Key Beach Mouse Recovery Team

Jeff Gore, Tim Day, Jennifer Manis, Kathy Russell, Jody Palmer, Amy Reume, Amanda Stafford, Nancy Nil, Jim Austin, Craig Martin

For more than 10 years, this team of partners from different agencies has been instrumental in recovery efforts for the endangered Perdido Key beach mouse (PKBM). Together, the team has served as a highly collaborative group that: provides emergency and long-term facilities to successfully captive breed beach mice; conducts and develops outreach material for zoos, the Service, and the public; prepares, transports, and assists with releases of captive-born PKBM back to the wild; developed and deployed a non-invasive monitoring system throughout PKBM habitat; conducts the monitoring, data collection, and analysis needed to inform land managers and the Service of the status of PKBM; initiated an outreach program focusing on “Got Habitat?” to help the public understand the relationship between protecting habitat for endangered species as well as humans.

A tiny mouse held by two hands.
Perdido Key beach mouse in hand. Photo by USFWS.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit fws.gov. Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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